Like many young girls, I concluded early in life that a horse was a necessary component for an exciting, adventure-filled life.
Growing up, my uncle had horses. When I was five years old, I would wait until the horses lay down, sneak into the pen and climb up onto their backs. Eventually, they would get up and walk around, never threatened by my presence.
Several years later, my dad arrived home with a dozen wild horses. With time, dedication and determination, I was able to befriend them. Often, they allowed me to brush them, feed them carrots taken from the garden, and eventually trust me to halter them. Over many days that turned into months and that included countless failed attempts, I was able to saddle break Brandy, a four-year-old sorrel. That’s when my love for riding grew.
As I nurtured my passion for watching the Alberta landscape unfold from a saddle, my opportunities for ad- venture multiplied. I took on challenging scenic rides in the boreal forest, and along lakeshores and rivers. But a trip to the mountains on horseback remained an elusive dream.
For the 20 years that my girlfriends and I have known one another, we’ve talked about booking a horseback trip over terrain we’ve never ridden before. However, 2021 was the year we decided to make our dream a reality! After a few phone calls and the help of Andre and Elizabeth, the owners and guides of Timber Creek Adventures, our expedition was finalized. Andre, a dear friend and a remarkable horseman, who had an infectious desire for all things outdoors, was to be our guide.
LUSH GRASS, FERAL HORSES
Six months later, we jumped out of our vehicles at the Cutoff Creek staging area, where a sea of lush grass and a herd of feral horses greeted us. In the distance, a bracelet of snow embraced the ridges of the mountains. Blue skies and fresh, crisp mountain air could only mean one thing: Our long-awaited adventure had begun!
After sharing a few hugs and tears, we turned our attention to the horses we would call “ours” for the trip. Mine was “Miss B.” We saddled up and enjoyed the scenic two-and-a-half-hour ride to the top camp, located on the banks of the crystal-clear Sawmill Creek. For the next several days, this would be our home.
Although we may have refined tastes for good coffee, wine, and cozy bedding, this was by no means a “glamping” trip. We all wanted an authentic experience without too much catering. The top camp featured an outdoor toilet with a mountain view and an outdoor shower, but we decided to brave the ice-cold water and jump in the creek. Although initially skeptical of the cool water in which we first dipped our toes, the water proved to be a great capper after a long, hot day riding in the sun.
MOONSCAPES AND FORESTS
The moon’s light cascaded softly over the mountain peaks and forest-covered landscape. The nights were crisp and the hushed, frigid mountain air granted a sound sleep for each of us. We burrowed into the two-person outfitter tents equipped with cots and sleeping bags.
We enjoyed a traditional fireside breakfast before riding a new trail each morning while covering some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever encountered. The tight, rolling wooded trails emerged into lush, vibrant green meadows with perfume-filled wildflowers, strawberries and raspberries growing naturally. With the jagged mountains in the distance, this became a core memory that will forever be a haven in my mind.
Each of us ladies had a good deal of previous riding experience. Once Andre saw our comfort and skill level, he led us through more diverse terrain and several large river crossings. I was excited about the challenge and the opportunity, as was Miss B, the beautiful black horse who carried me each day. She had been trained for endurance trail riding and had a tremendous take-charge attitude. As we crossed the fast-flowing river, cool water lapping against her belly, she was driven, determined and appreciated leading the way.
We had many incredible moments during our four- day trip, but my highlight was Day 3. That July morning, we saddled the horses, packed up the gear, water and lunches, then began our six-hour ride. Andre guided us through the astounding territory. We found ourselves crossing water that flowed over rocks and gem-blue streams that revealed each perfectly carved pebble beneath the water. We rode through an entire forest of old-growth spruce trees lined with “old man’s beard” (or beard lichens). Clean mountain water seeped and drib- bled from the boulders placed sporadically in the forest- ed area. The fascinating visual effect had me wondering if I was still in Alberta.
Everyone fell silent when the wooded trail gave way to another picturesque river scene and a breathtaking mountain view. The horses paused for a few minutes at one of the creek crossings for a drink of water. At that moment, not a word was spoken among us. It was as if we could all feel the same appreciation, honor and gratitude for this beautiful land we each get to call home.
ONE OF A KIND TRIP
This one-of-a-kind ladies’ trip was a soul-healing, grounding experience. It allowed the opportunity for reflection, growth and a memorable journey with great friends.
Lessons from Nature say it best: “Fluttering leaves overhead; dirt path underfoot. Nothing speaks to one’s soul as loudly as the peace and quiet of a trail ride.”